Summer Update

Blog posts have been fairly sparse lately. A couple major life events have taken place that (to say the least) are way more important than blogging.

First, I got married to the love of my life two weekends ago. It was a wonderful weekend filled with friends and family.

Second, I defended my MS Thesis and completed the requirements for my MS degree from the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Michigan State University last week (presentation slides here). More posts on my thesis research will (undoubtably) be posted later.

So what is next?

For the next three(ish) months my wife and I will be living in Washington DC. I’ll be spending my time over at USAID in the U.S. Global Development Lab. Officially I’m a HESN Intern in partnership with the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation at Michigan State University. Specifically, I’m a Research Associate with the MERLIN Program (Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning Innovations) housed in the Office of Evaluation and Impact Assessment at USAID.

The MERLIN Program is a fairly new initiative within USAID. It’s task is to improve upon traditional approaches to monitoring and evaluation of development projects – specifically when outputs and outcomes of development projects are not easily identifiable prior to the start of the project. The particular focus of the MERLIN Program is on projects operating in highly complex environments, where the best approach to the development problem is not well recognized, and project managers must adapt the project design over the course of the project.

Many of you who know me will understand why I’m so excited for this opportunity over the next few months. My first “job” out of college was to implement an impact evaluation on a business training program in Western Kenya. The evaluation I helped design and run was adequate but clunky and time consuming. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about data collection, survey design methods, and econometrics. The world is complex and one of the most complex and puzzling problems of our time is poverty and underdevelopment amidst unbelievable technological innovation and economic growth. I think it is through efforts like the MERLIN Program – through adaptation in design and humility about what is known – that complex problems are ultimately solved.

Finally, after the summer months, my wife and I will move to the Twin Cities in Minnesota where I will begin a PhD in the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota. To fund this educational endeavor, I will work at the Minnesota Population Center (MPC) as a graduate research assistant. The MPC manages, disseminates, and harmonizes administrative and demographic data from both the United States and all over the world. For the nerdy data-savvy readers they are the home of the IPUMS, IDHS, NHGIS, and IHIS datasets.

Many exciting changes, hope to get back to blogging regularly soon!